The Simpsons vs. Family Guy debate is the kind of water cooler debate that’s been happening for years now. Both shows have had a tremendous impact on network television, but the one that seems to have had the most profound impact on the zeitgeist of American culture is The Simpsons.
Mark Liberman, director of The Linguistic Data Consortium has stated that “The Simpsons has apparently taken over from Shakespeare and the Bible as our culture’s greatest source of idioms, catchphrases and sundry other textual allusions”. There are many other substantial reasons why The Simpsons will always be better, more important, and more iconic than Family Guy.
With both series set to have their season premieres (27th for The Simpsons and 14th for Family Guy) on Fox’s Animation Domination block in the coming weeks, here are Screenrant’s 10 Reasons Why The Simpsons is Better Than Family Guy. We should probably mention that we wholeheartedly agree with critics who suggest the best years of The Simpsons are behind them. As such, the majority of this list will focus on the golden age of The Simpsons, approximately from Season 3 until Season 9.
The Simpsons Has Better Musical Numbers
Both shows have had their fair share of highlights when it comes to musical numbers. For example, “Shipoopi,” “You Have AIDS,” and “This House is Freakin’ Sweet” are classic Family Guy moments that had us giggling non-stop. However, The Simpsons will always have the better musical numbers. The list is endless: “We’re Sending Our Love Down the Well,” “See My Vest,” “Lisa’s Birthday Song,” “Dr. Zaius,” “The Stonecutter’s Song,” “Talkin’ Softball,” and – of course – the famous “Monorail Song.”
Complimented by sharp lyrics, witty pop culture references, and enhancing the respective plots of their episodes, these musical numbers are brilliant. Family Guy‘s numbers were highly influenced by The Simpsons, which is why their tunes sometimes feel a little rehashed. They’re filthier, sure, but they’re also not as clever and not as quotable.
The Simpsons has Better Quotes
It’s no surprise that The Simpsons takes the cake when it comes to classic quotes. It’s so quotable that “D’oh” and “Meh”, two words said to have been popularized by the show, have made it into the Merriam-Webster English dictionary. Can Family Guy one-up that? Of course not.
From Mr. Burns’ “Excellent” to Bart Simpson’s “Aye Caramba!”, the list is endless. It is sort of unfair when you look at the list of writers The Simpsons has had over the years, which includes Conan O’Brien, Seth Rogen, Judd Apatow, and the incredibly underrated John Schwartzwelder. It’s a who’s who of comedy giants that have influenced a generation.
Along with Seinfeld, The Simpsons is quite possibly the most quotable show for Gen-Xers. “You don’t win friends with salad”, “Everything’s coming up Milhouse”, and “Boo-urns”, among others, are now a part of the American vocabulary. Family Guy might be more timely with its pop culture, but The Simpsons wins by being timeless.
The Simpsons has more “Classic” Episodes and Gags
Yes, Family Guy has the feud between Peter Griffin and The Chicken. That might be the only running gag in Family Guy that can match in quality any of hundred of couch and chalkboard gags from the Simpsons’ opening credits, not to mention the plethora of throwaway moments that’ll have you laughing just to think about them (“I am so smart! S-M-R-T!”). Family Guy fans may retort by saying that their show has gags that are just as good, but even one of their most famous gags, in which Peter Griffin hurts his knee and winces and moans about it for almost half a minute without interruption, is a clear rip-off of Sideshow Bob vs. the rakes.
The classic episodes are endless as well: “Lisa’s First Word,” “Who Shot Mr. Burns,” “Homer at Bat,” “Mr. Plow,” “Last Exit to Springfield,” and “Cape Fear” have had a profound effect on the way a comedy can bring social satire to the forefront of prime time TV.
The Simpsons has Better “Variety” Episodes
We could have had a whole entry on The Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials, which makes us look forward to Halloween every year in grand fashion. These specials place the Simpsons family in sci-fi and horror settings that forego character development for more surreal narratives, meaning the possibilities are endless. Special attention should be given to the recurrent alien characters Kang and Kodos, who are as comically evil and devious as anyone on TV.
In addition to the Halloween specials, the show has had an abundance of brilliant special episodes: “Behind the Laughter,” “The 138th Episode Spectacular,” and “Springfield’s Most Wanted” prove just how out of the box the show could go, yet still maintain its brilliant candor.
The Simpsons has More Social Relevance
The Simpsons has held a mirror up to the face of American society for more than a quarter of a century. Family Guy can’t say that. The Simpsons tackled homophobia in “Homer’s Phobia,” immigration in “Much Apu About Nothing,” gun rights in “The Cartridge Family,” political corruption in “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington,” and environmental issues in “The Old Man and the Lisa.”
The show has always tackled the issues that mattered and made sure it was delivered in a clever, enticing way. Family Guy, on the other hand, is more likely to tackle the lower-hanging fruit of pop culture, and when dealing with sensitive issues it can end up being more offensive than insightful. The Simpsons has always had a knack for tackling the issues in a human fashion, yet still maintaining its humor.
The Simpsons is More Generous and Sophisticated in its humor
As hinted at in the last entry, Family Guy relies far more on quick, pop culture-driven jokes than The Simpsons. It also has a reputation for playing dirty, and sheathing its offensive material in a thin layer of irony. As with creator Seth MacFarlane’s maligned hosting gig at the Oscars, the jokes in Family Guy – such as its frequent use of stereotypes to represent Asian characters – leave viewers wondering whether the show is actually critiquing social ills or reveling in them instead.
In contrast, The Simpsons might be more “family friendly,” but it’s also more concerned with developing three-dimensional characters that can act as a well-spring for future jokes. At the heart of the series is a family that truly loves each other, flaws and all. Even after 14 seasons of development, it would be difficult to say that Family Guy‘s Griffin family is a well-rounded group of characters.
The Simpsons has More Memorable Characters
This is an obvious one. Family Guy has their core cast of characters, but it doesn’t even come close to the number of memorable characters that The Simpsons has introduced over the years. In the first 10 seasons alone The Simpsons gave us some the most eccentric but endearing characters on prime time television: Apu, Milhouse, Mr. Burns, Krusty The Clown, Troy McClure, Dr. Nick, Sideshow Bob, Barney Grumble, Chief Wiggum, Ned Flanders, Ralph Wiggum, Moe Szyslak, and Groundskeeper Willie, just to name a few.
Despite being supporting characters, almost anyone from The Simpsons universe could be spun off into their own series and we’d be there for every episode eagerly anticipating their next adventure. It’s something The Simpsons creators have been experts at doing, treating each and every one of their characters with the utmost respect and developing them enough to truly be unique and unforgettable.
Not many other shows in the history of television have had this many characters to work with. Family Guy doesn’t have as many memorable characters and an ill fated spin-off, The Cleveland Show, has proven that audiences are in agreement.
The simpsons has inspired intellectual study
The Simpsons, as it happens, is a textbook-perfect example of postmodern entertainment. A pastiche of pop culture sources and meta-commentary, it was originally conceived as a satire about the American family’s relationship to their televisions. Of course, The Simpsons has outlived the phenomenon of “television addiction” (thanks to the internet), but it was still one of the most – if not the most – relevant comedy of the 90s.
It has also been the subject of several academic articles and papers. The show’s artistic techniques have become canonical examples of postmodern television production. The show’s thematic resonance even inspired a book on the series’ relationship to philosophy. In The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D’Oh! of Homer, several academics explore the show’s relation to classic and contemporary philosophy alike, proving the series’ lasting relevance.
The Simpsons has better guest stars
For many celebrities, it’s an honor to guest star on The Simpsons. The iconic show has had a varied list of celebrity fans who go out of their way to guest in any given episode. Who can forget Michael Jackson’s iconic guest starring turn in “Stark Raving Dad”? Or Danny DeVito as Homer’s brother Herb in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” It’s not just about the celebrities that appear, it’s also about the way they are used.
Sometimes, celebrities might appear in order to make fun of themselves (like the Red Hot Chili Peppers in “Krusty Gets Kancelled”), but other times, they use their persona to give their character an extra edge (like John Waters as the family’s new gay friend in “Homer’s Phobia”). Family Guy has followed suit over the years with the use of celebrity voices, but never in the same deft and ingenious way or with the same amount of star-studded names as Matt Groening’s animated show.
The Simpsons Bridges Generations
Now that Generation X is bringing evil post-Millenial spawn into the world, there are three generations that love The Simpsons. The kids that grew up watching it with their parents, and the children that grew up watching syndicated reruns on cable. The Simpsons is still airing, of course, but it’s those first 8-10 seasons that people adore.
Family Guy doesn’t even come close to bridging the generational gap. A lot of it has to do with The Simpsons being an important, now nostalgic, show for Gen Xers. Many lines and scenes from the show are still very much part of the context of our lives. People who were born in the late ’70s and ’80s tend to use Simpsons references in their everyday conversation.
Do you agree with our list? Are you a fan of either of these shows and would like to give your input on the rivalry? Let us know in the comments below.